Art & Science of Learning, Jesuit/Ignatian

Preparing Our Students for the Future

by Kim Levenhagen PT, DPT, WCC, Assistant Professor in the Program in Physical Therapy

In 2013, Hart Research Associates conducted an online survey of employers’ priorities for hiring today’s graduates.  This detailed analysis provided recommendations on changes that need to occur in education and educational assessment practices.  A brief summary of It Takes More Than a Major:  Employer Priorities for College Learning and Student Success reported employers want graduates who are:

  • Innovative
  • Ethical
  • Critical thinkers
  • Complex problem solvers
  • Excellent communicators in the written and oral language
  • Lifelong learners

Additionally, the report suggested that in order for students to be successful in the workplace, educational institutions should incorporate a blended model of liberal and applied learning.  This model would include educational practices that require students to “1) conduct research and use evidence-based analysis; 2) gain in-depth knowledge in the major, and analytic, problem solving, and communication skills; and 3) apply their learning in real-world settings.”  It is interesting to note, that employers placed emphasis in a candidate’s ability to critically think, communicate, and solve complex problems over their major field of study when hiring.

So how do we measure up in preparing Saint Louis University students for the future?  When our students graduate this May can we say they can critically think, communicate and solve problems?  Have we provided them opportunities to fail and succeed in real life settings?  According to the 2014 Saint Louis University Student Profile, 95% of students from the Class of 2012 were satisfied with their post graduate activities including graduate school and careers.  If we agree that satisfied graduates are equal to satisfied employers, then we are living out the Mission of Saint Louis University and producing future employees who are men and women for others.  So what do we do to set our graduates apart?

One way in which faculty live out this Mission is by incorporating the Ignatian Pedagogy Paradigm into the curriculum.  It allows the students to develop a level of deeper critical thinking and solve complex problems.  This transformational learning process involves five elements which include: 1) Context (who); 2) Experience (what); 3) Reflection (why/how); 4) Action (what next); and 5) Evaluation (how well).  For this model to be successful, the faculty member must plan purposeful learning experiences in which the students can critically think, problem solve in real life experiences, reflect, and then serve as change agents.  This can be accomplished through addressing social justice issues in curricular topics, problem based learning, or participating in community service projects that address cura personalis (care of the whole person).

If you are new to the concept of Ignatian Pedagogy, the Reinert Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning provides excellent resources for faculty.  The site includes videos on the history and the five elements by the late Fr. Vincent Duminuco, S.J. as well as Saint Louis University faculty Darina Sargeant, Ph.D., Michael D Rozier S.J. In addition, there are links and tip sheets on how to incorporate service learning, Ignatian spirituality, and reflection into your curriculum.  Even if you are familiar with Ignatian Pedagogy these resources can assist you in sparking new ideas to enhance your teaching.


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Dr. Levenhagen has a DPT in Physical Therapy from Saint Louis University. She teaches many courses, including: Survey of Disease, Communication Processes, Multi System Management, Skills Practicum, Interprofessional Educational courses. She also is part of the Clinical Education team for the SLU Program in Physical Therapy. Deeply committed to effective pedagogical practice, Dr. Levenhagen has participated in a number of programs hosted by the Center, and she now serves as one of the Center’s Faculty Fellows.